Debuting her AW16 collection in this three-minute short, the London designer speaks to us about the creative iconoclasts who inspired her
After a brief, two-season hiatus, Martine Rose – the designer who is known for taking inspiration from the early 90s rave scene and sadomasochistic subcultures – is back. “It’s great to be showing again,” she commented, “Having a break has given me a renewed energy and focus and has allowed me to develop and incubate new ideas.” And what are these ideas? Well, influenced by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and member of the post-punk group The Fall, Mark E. Smith, she’s put some new spins on her old classics – putting some very Mapplethorpe-esque leather chaps on her trademark oversized denim jeans.
These looks are debuted in a new film, which premiered last night, directed by Sharna Osborne. Described as a “colour-drenched erotica throwback to masters such as Kenneth Anger and James Bidgood,”, the film draws on Mapplethorpe and Smith like the collection, and offers an unadulterated insight into the “men that inhabit Martine’s mind.” Here, in the wake of the film’s release, Rose tells us more about the collection and the creative iconoclasts that inspired it.
Why do Mapplethorpe and Smith have a lasting influence on your work?
Martine Rose: Both of these artists have such a distinct language and an element of esoteric motivations. From when Mapplethorpe started out, his voice was so distinctive and his way of peeling back and selecting what and how to reveal his world is really interesting. Smith is something else, like something else man, he is just so himself, never bows to any pressure and never bows to the dollar. That kind of determination is inspiring.
Why are you interested in youth culture artefacts?
Martine Rose: Youth is something that is lost, you have and you aren't aware that everyday you are losing it until it’s gone. So the artefacts are the remnants of everything that it means to have existed at that time. I love looking at and thinking about my own and I’m also really interested in looking at what helped form and inform other people growing up, and now having my own daughter, it will be fascinating to watch how she traverses that terrain.
Elements of the collection are self-referential, do you think it’s important to develop your own design language rather than bow to pressure to constantly create something new?
Martine Rose: There is very little new these days so yes, I think it’s important to speak with your own voice. I’m not Rei Kawakubo, I’ve never been a designer that dreams of ways to re-invent the t-shirt (thank god she does though). I see images and I think about elements that create interesting combinations in terms of fabrication, silhouette, historical references, a group of stuff that together will make me interested in coming into work tomorrow.
How has taking time off allowed you to develop creatively?
Martine Rose: I don’t know that I have a simple answer to that, but watching my baby lick carpet has been pretty eye opening in terms of thinking about weird choices. Watching someone learn new things literally everyday has been good in terms of thinking about simultaneously learning and unlearning. I want to learn, and be better, but to do that sometimes I feel I need to unlearn all the bullshit stuff that I have accumulated over 36 years.
Can you talk a little about the creation of the film for this season and what inspired it?
Martine Rose: The aesthetic was of the film really came out from the visual research, photos of Mark E. Smith drenched in colour, old gig photos, 70s mens underground erotica. And then Sharna (Osborne) brought her own genius to it, she shoots in VHS which has a distinct look to it and she is really developing that aesthetic as a great signature. Also the music, I am always listening to music and a friend put me onto a fantastic 70s gay punk disco band called Smokey that really helped nail the mood of the film. We listened to that together and really just started making the movie through conversation in the first meeting.
Watch Martine Rose’s AW16, directed by Sharna Osborne below: